Frontiers and migrants, acting together

Constant tragedies in the Mediterranean have led Juncker's Executive to speed up the pace for a community strategy. The proposals

Yet another shipwreck on March 4: thirty miles from the Libyan coast were recovered the bodies of ten drowned migrants; 941 migrants were rescued by Italian emergency units. On the same day the news came that the European Commission has decided to hasten the deadline for the definition of a common agenda on migration, antedating it from July to May; a few days after Frontex announced that 500 thousand or even a million “desperate” refugees might be arriving from Libya. Meanwhile, the College of Commissioners held a first policy debate on initiatives to implement existing instruments and strengthen cooperation in the management of flows from third countries. A common problem. “A challenge for Europe as a whole”, said the first president of the EU Commission Frans Timmermans in Brussels, who pointed out that “migration is a problem that involves all member Countries. It’s no longer Mare nostrum (our Sea) but our Europe”. “We must make better and more coherent use of all our tools”, he added – “agree common priorities and pool more resources at EU and national levels to achieve real solidarity and a better sharing of responsibility between Member States”. Four areas of intervention were identified: a common asylum system, a new European policy on legal migration legal, strengthening the fight on illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings, and reinforcing external border control. For the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, it is necessary “to give immediate” and “long-term”, “answers” and “address the root causes, starting from the armed strife at our borders.” Mogherini supports the need to “resolve the crisis in Syria and address the situation in North Africa.” In Libya there must be a single interlocutor: we must “create a state authority” that “has the control of territory and border, on land and at sea.” Dimitris Avramopoulos, immigration Commissioner, stressed the need to consider for “all the facets of this phenomenon”. A common asylum system. The EU, the Commission wrote in a release, “has one of the most advanced legislative frameworks globally to offer protection to those in need. Now is the time to fully and coherently implement the recently adopted Common European Asylum System”. The Commission “will take all efforts that existing divergences in national asylum policy practices disappear” and will ensure the deepening of cooperation with third countries to address the root causes of migration and mainstream migration into the design of development strategies. Other targets are “making progress in the increased use of relocation and resettlement efforts by the European Union, in close dialogue with Member States and third countries which host important numbers of refugees”. Legal migration. Whilst addressing existing unemployment, Europe will have to “attract the right talent” to be more competitive at a global level. “This is a long-term effort”, for which the European Commission will launch a review of the EU Blue Card Directive (released in 2009, regarding highly qualified workers). The process “can only work in discussion with Member States, including on a more horizontal approach to legal migration policy”. Human trafficking. For Frontex, in 2014, there were about 278.000 irregular border crossings: twice as many compared to 2011. Many make use of smugglers – or are taken advantage of by human traffickers. For this reason the Commission wants to enhance its actions in this area working towards a “comprehensive set of actions against human smuggling”, and wants to further develop concrete tools targeting priority countries and routes, in close collaboration with third countries, also through existing readmission agreements and cooperation frameworks (e.g. the Rabat, Khartoum or Budapest processes)”. Protecting the borders. “An area without internal borders, and a solid asylum and migration policy can only be sustained if Europe manages its external borders, in full respect of fundamental rights”, states the Commission. Border management is a shared competence between the EU and the Member States, and the enforcement of the surveillance of EU’s external borders is of vital interest to all. The preparation of the European Agenda on Migration will be an opportunity to discuss whether and to what extent Frontex needs a budget increase, and more operational assets and human resources to better address these challenges. Member States, concludes the release, “need to pool more resources to reinforce the work of Frontex and put European Border Guard Teams into action”.

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